A mixed week for British athletes at these world championships in London is suddenly encased in a silver lining. Last year Britain’s talented women’s 4x100m squad took an unexpected bronze in the Olympics. Now they have an upgrade to silver. Given Asha Philip, Desirèe Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita have age on their side, a global title may yet be next on the list.
True, their time of 42.12sec in the final was not among the quickest. In fact it was nearly two tenths slower than they managed in their morning heat. But they handled the pressure of a couple of rickety changeovers to finish a deserved second behind a US team spearheaded by Allyson Felix and Tori Bowie.
As Philip put it: “At first I didn’t even know where Daryll was on that final leg and I was just screaming, panicking: ‘What’s going on?’ while the crowd was just getting louder and louder. I began to panic more and then she popped out and then we got a silver medal. I’m pretty happy with that.”
It was not smoothest set of baton changes. Henry was at full stretch when she handed over to Henry, while Asher-Smith had to check her stride to get the baton on the third leg. But with the Americans’ handovers also ragged, Neita was in the hunt for first place with 80 metres to go before Bowie, winner of the individual gold, burned away to take gold in 41.82.
Said Philip: “We had a couple of precarious moments. It happens – it’s a relay. But we got it round and we got a medal so doesn’t really matter. We didn’t drop it.”
It also helped they were against a Jamaican team stripped of their biggest names – Elaine Thompson, the fastest 100m woman in the world this year, and those stalwarts Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce. Still, they claimed bronze in 42.19, with Germany fourth in 42.36.
Asher-Smith was left to reflect on a topsy-turvy season that started with her breaking her foot and ended with fourth place in the 200m and her third global relay medal. “I think I’m still in like a dream phase because obviously to me I didn’t even know in February if I was even going to be here, and then suddenly when I started running again it was a bit like: ‘OK, I might not be fast enough be in the team.’ And I’ve gone from that to winning a world silver which is the highest medal that I have ever won. It’s absolutely incredible.”
There was a shock in the women’s 100m hurdles as Australia’s Sally Pearson blasted clear of the world record holder, the American Kendra Harrison, to win gold.
Pearson has fond memories of this track, having won Olympic gold at London 2012. But two years ago in Rome she suffered a wrist injury so serious she feared she would need her lower arm amputated.
Yet she was back close to her best here, leading from the gun to win in 12.59sec. The American Dawn Harper-Nielsen took silver in 12.63, while the Germany Pamela Dutkiewicz grabbed a surprise bronze 0.09 further back. Incredibly, Harrison could only run 12.74 to finish fourth.